The Big Picture

Lots of thoughts about goals and mission statements and such have been floating around my writerly associations since the new year. I’ve been pondering these things. I know that my writing has been a bit haphazard over the years and I suddenly have a need to know what I’m doing, what I’m aiming for. I think it would give me more confidence in pitching my work to editors and agents. But the big picture has always been a bit of a challenge for me to see. I see details. I see the moment.

So I began by considering my desires as a reader. As a reader, I want a book that hangs together well—in other words, a good story. I don’t want a story to try to tell too much or too little of the lives of the people involved. I want some meaning, something relevant to flow out of that story and pierce my own heart.

But I want more than just a good story. I want it peopled with multi-dimensional, believable characters. Characters that I believe in. Characters that struggle with their lives, their feelings, their relationship with God and others, just like I do. I want to watch them, learn from them.

And I want colorful, strong words strung into sentences that have a rhythm to them—the rhythm that fits the story they tell. Words that make me hurt with their beauty or their pain. Words that make me feel the story and the characters.

For me, the most powerful fiction has been all of these things—and I have come away changed from the reading of it. So shouldn’t that be the type of fiction I want to write? I know this definition doesn’t really encompass a genre, but I’m okay with that for now. Looking back over my three completed novels, I see I’m working toward my goal. All three have a compelling premise—and I’m getting better at spinning a good premise into a good story. All three have characters who struggle not only with their physical circumstances but internally as well. They grow. They change. And with each novel, my words fit more exactly. I seem to have more control over them to make them do what I want them to do.

But even in this, the story and words seem to be only the vehicle for the character. That’s what really excites me—making the character come alive, making the reader feel their feelings until that character niggles a reader to the point of saying, “I see some of that in my own life; Lord help me change, too.” That’s what I want my stories to do. Challenge. Encourage. Be a catalyst for change.

I’m not sure it I’ve come up with a mission statement or a doable goal, but it’s something, a framework in which to fit all the other details of what I write.

4 comments on “The Big Picture

  1. I love how open you always are on your blog, and how your sweet personality shines through no matter what you say.

    Have you read Anne Lamott’s chapters in Bird by Bird on characters and plot? She talks a lot about listening to your characters.


  2. You’re on the right track. I predict that once you settle on the premise and the cast of characters, the words will fly. I’ll encourage you to adopt Jim Bell’s philosophy of “Get it down, then get it right,” and let the words come out, editing them after it’s all done.

    You’ll be surprised at times when the characters lead you down a different path than the one you visualized. Don’t let that bother you. Just flesh out the characters, turn them loose,and let God guide your fingers over the keys.

    I can’t recall who said it, but an editor once criticized an author for killing off a lovable character, to which the author replied, “I didn’t kill him–I found him dead.”

    I’m looking forward to reading your next novel–the one that gets published.

  3. After reading your short story/novel beginning at writer’s group, I’d say you’re well on your way, darlin’. Wow. You took my breath away.

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